Published on April 6th, 2012 | by Saransh Sharma2
You never know what they will say next.. 001
This series will be based upon experiences of debating theists. I like Hitchens’s line, “you never know what they’re going to say next…”
Although I make it a point not get into any such debate with any philosophically unsophisticated theist, but in the face of spectacular absurdity one can’t help but say something.
So last night I got sucked into this debate with theists over dinner and the following ‘new’ points came out:
1.) “There are people lot more learned than us and they all don’t reject the idea of God, so there must be something.”
I don’t know what ‘learned’ people he was talking about but almost all of the top scientists identify themselves as atheists or agnostics.
People can be very successful in life and have sound academic background and still be strong believers in some version of religion. This is because theism is compatible with certain kind of academics and incompatible with certain others. One can be a very good carpenter, dancer, economist, bank employee, graphics designer, computer programmer, etc and still hold a very strong belief in some flavour of religion and its certain claims.
This is because they are non-overlapping magisterium.
But if you are in the business of finding out about the nature of reality of the universe, then its less likely for you to be a believer.
As religion and science are overlapping magisterium. Both of the try to make sense of the nature of the universe, but in doing so, they make incompatible and mutually exclusive claims. This is a reason an overwhelming majority of scientists are non believers.
2.) “Millions of people can’t be wrong.”
Unfortunately for our species, millions of us can be wrong. Truth is no democracy. Even if all people believe something or not, a claim’s truth or falsehood will not be affected by it.
One has to only look at human history. For thousands of years humanity believed:
..that Earth was flat.
..that Earth was at the center of the universe.
..that the Earth was only a few thousand years old.
..that mentally retarded were posed by demons.
..etc. The list is endless.
Even now, most of the religious people think that the people of the other religion got it wrong.
3.) All the religious traditions must have some kind of cosmic significance, which now has been forgotten so it’s better to continue following them.
*Not enough time now. More on this later*
4.) World is moving towards moderation n modernity so there is nothing to worry. Eventually religion will be moderated enough.
Religion has not given into moderation on its own. Only when it was forced into a corner by piling up mountains of evidence, it had to modify itself in order to survive.
But this is not true in all cases, the huge evolution-creationism controversy in USA is an example of this. Evolution directly contradicts the biblical account of creationism and thus is being vehemently opposed there in certain states. The average Indian is blissfully unaware of this. The following is to give you an idea:
Here are some of the presidential candidates for election in USA who publically state that they do not believe in evolution because it contradicts biblical account:
These are just 3 small examples. Rest of the research is for you to do. I can’t do it for you.
5.) There are still gaps in science. As long as there will be gaps in science, there will be God.
Classic God of the gaps argument. This argument is a intellectual suicide use Google to find out why.
6.) Science keeps changing its mind, so it’s difficult to trust science.
Such is an argument which arises from not understanding what science is.
Unlike science which is open to revision and ready to be disproved(in fact it actively seeks out to be disproved), trouble with tradition(religion) is that no matter how long ago a story was made up it is still exactly as true or untrue as the original story was.
There is authority:
Believe it because your parents do. Believe because a priest does. Believe it because a teacher does, or because a holy book does. Believe it because it ‘feels right’
These are all bad reasons to believe in anything.
7.) Had there been no religion, humanity would have found something else to fight upon.
I don’t have time to write on this right now. Such an argument says nothing in favor religion. One key different in fighting over `some other idea` and fighting over religion is religious certainties.
In a world without religion, at least people would have not killed n died, falsely believing that creator of the entire universe is on their side.
More on this later. Out of time for now.
The problem here was, just like any other unsophisticated discussion, the theist wasn’t willing to listen to reason, shifting from one argument to another, without realising the seriousness of his claims. Although very weak, the theist brought forward few new points.
The entire quote of Christopher Hitchens from which the earlier line was borrowed:
One of the reasons why I like debating with the religious is that you never know what they are going to say next. Sam and I don’t mind being called predictable. We know what we think. We say straight up where we think we know, where we think it is not possible to know, why we don’t think there’s the supernatural, and so on. But this evening already we’ve had your suggestion that God is only really a guru, a friend when you’re in need. I mean he wouldn’t do anything like bugger around with Job to prove a point…
If I now tell you that must mean the book wasn’t really the word of God, you would say, “who ever believed that that ever was the word of God?” Let me just tell you something. For hundreds and thousands of years, this kind of discussion would have been in most places impossible to have, or Sam and I would have been having it at the risk of our lives. Religion now comes to us in this smiling face ingratiating way because it has had to give so much ground and because we know so much more. Don’t forget the way it behaved when it was strong and when it really believed that it had God on its side.